Wednesday, July 13, 2016
façade: George Roy Hill
George Roy Hill made 14 major films in about 25 years before retiring in 1988 to teach his craft at Yale, and from where I sit, there isn't really one embarrassment among them. Wait! I take that back: There's ”Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a film that I dislike to the point of irrationality.
He was an active force in New York during the 1950s, directing both plays and live TV dramas, including among other titles, the original Playhouse 90 production of Abby Mann's "Judgment at Nuremberg" in 1959 (wherein Maximilian Schell played the same role that would inevitably win him an Oscar two years later for the 1961 Stanley Kramer film version).
Hill directed the original stage production of the Tennessee Williams comedy, "Period of Adjustment," and when MGM made it into a movie in 1962, Hill was part of the package, guiding star Jane Fonda through one of her most charming performances. He followed this directorial debut with another filmed play, Lillian Hellman's "Toys in the Attic," made a year later and starring Dean martin, Geraldine Page and Wendy Hiller.
His third film was the very charming and very urbane 1964 Peter Sellers lark, "The World of Henry Orient," which Hill would also direct as a terrific Broadway musical, titled "Henry, Sweet Henry," in 1967. Two films with Julie Andrews followed in 1966 and '67, both roadshow attractions - "Hawaii" and the dreaded "Thoroughly Modern Millie," respectively.
Then came "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid"in 1969. It was his sixth film, it was topped by two genuine movie stars - you know, Newman and Redford - and it was a huge hit.
From that point on, Hill helmed a pleasingly eclectic selection of titles, including "A Little Romance" (1979), the Laurence Olivier/Diane Lane trifle, and Diane Keaton's "Little Drummer Girl" (1984).
"Slaughterhouse-Five" (1972) and "The World According to Garp" (1982), arguably, his two best films, followed and then he reunited with "Cassidy/Sundance" stars - you know, Paul and Robert - for the Oscar-winning "The Sting" (1973), himself taking the best director award that year.
And he would subsequently also direct Bob in "The Great Waldo Pepper" (1975) and Paul in "Slap Shot" (1977), both fine, sturdy films.
His last film was "The Funny Farm," with Chevy Chase, made in 1988. Hill died from complications from Parkinson's disease in 2002, at the age 81. He is much-missed and way too under-appreciated.